Health

KCUR's health team focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas. Working with journalists at other public media stations and news outlets, reporters Dan Margolies and Alex Smith strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons-Flickr

Centene Corp. will step into the breach created by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s decision last month to exit the Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2018.

The Clayton, Mo.-based insurer will begin selling health plans next year in all 25 western Missouri counties that Blue KC’s withdrawal would have left “bare” — that is, without any insurer offering health plans in the individual market. 

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Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading, as businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikipedia Commons

In a post Tuesday on the Health Affairs blog, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius calls the Republican health care plans passed by the House and proposed by the Senate “a very cruel war on the poor.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. June 27.

Disability rights advocates are among the strongest opponents of the Obamacare replacement legislation that Republicans are attempting to push through Congress.

If anything resembling the bill that the U.S. House approved in May or the one the Senate is considering passes, they say it will roll back decades of progress. 

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Aubri Thompson has already had her share of challenges by age 21: She left the foster care system without a designated caregiver, lived without a steady home for more than a year and became a single parent before finishing college.

Thompson lived in the Kansas foster care system from age 14, when she was reported as a runaway, until she “aged out” at 18. During that time, she moved 21 times, staying in foster homes, group homes and mental health treatment facilities.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday signed a bill creating a task force to examine the Kansas foster care system.

The number of children in the Kansas foster care system has set records in recent years, passing 7,100 in April. The death of an abused boy in Kansas City, Kansas, also raised concerns about whether the system was protecting children. 

File Photo / KCUR 89.3

When it comes to the “discussion draft” to replace Obamacare that U.S. Senate Republicans unveiled Thursday, Missouri’s two senators could not be farther apart.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts website

Kansas U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is not enthusiastic about the Senate’s version of the Obamacare replacement bill.

Nevertheless, he supports it.

The state of Missouri filed suit Wednesday against three major drug companies, alleging they fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic with a campaign of false advertising and fake claims.

On the steps of St. Louis Circuit Court, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he would seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages against Purdue Pharma L.P., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On average, men live significantly shorter lives than women, frequent the doctor less, and die at higher rates in nine of the top ten causes of death. Today, we find out how masculinity is related to men's health.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

The foster care system in Kansas has problems, but a national child welfare group sees one area where it could lead the way for other states.

Tracey Feild, director of the child welfare strategy group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said work on childhood trauma by KVC Kansas, one of the state’s two foster care contractors, could be a model for others. The Casey Foundation sponsors the annual Kids Count report and other child-focused research.

Next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will leave the individual health care marketplace in Missouri that was set up under the Affordable Care Act. And when it does, about 18,000 patients in 25 western Missouri counties will lose their health insurance. If those enrollees sign on to Healthcare.gov this fall to buy a replacement plan, they may have no options to choose from.

That's because those 25 counties could become "bare."

File Photo / Kansas News Service

In voting for a $1.2 billion tax increase to bolster the budget for the next two years, the Kansas Legislature avoided a projected $900 budget hole and began restoring past cuts to the mental health system.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

KCUR health reporter Alex Smith has won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for a radio feature about a deaf man who regained his hearing through cochlear implants.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

Unsatisfied with the extent of the Senate’s new proposed abortion restrictions, a Missouri House committee restored some provisions Monday, including one that gives the attorney general the ability to enforce any abortion law at any time.

Republicans on the House Committee for Children and Families said they added back the provisions, which had been stripped from the bill the Senate passed last week as a means of protecting against Democratic filibusters, because they didn't want to be a rubber stamp for the Senate.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Safety concerns continue to prevent recertification of Osawatomie State Hospital, although a recent inspection didn’t find any evidence of the patient violence that prompted federal officials to decertify it in late 2015.

Staffing shortages and concerns about security and patient safety prompted the initial order. Certain they had addressed those issues, state officials appeared confident the state-run psychiatric hospital would pass muster. 

Republican lawmakers pushed an abortion bill through the Missouri Senate this week, but were unable to secure many of the provisions they wanted.

Democrats are happy with a watered-down bill, but unhappy with having to deal with another attempt to further restrict access to abortion and that it came during a special legislative session.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed into law the state’s new school funding formula, which increases aid to schools by $284 million within two years.

In signing Senate Bill 19 into law, Brownback said it directs “more dollars into the classroom by limiting bond and interest aid, encouraging responsible financial stewardship at the local level.” 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Given all the controversy about KanCare – Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program – it would be reasonable to expect big crowds at public hearings about renewing the program.

But that wasn’t the case Wednesday when relative handfuls of health care providers and consumers turned out in Topeka for the first in a series of forums scheduled across the state.

The sparse turnout disappointed state officials and legislators who attended.

Updated at 6:30 a.m. June 15 with Senate passing abortion bill — Missouri senators passed legislation early Thursday that would require annual health inspections of abortion clinics and enact other new restrictions on the procedure.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Erin Smith doesn’t watch a lot of TV.

Instead, the 17-year-old spends her evenings perfecting an online tool she created. The tool, called FacePrint, can detect Parkinson’s disease years before current diagnosis methods by recording your facial reactions with a webcam at home.

Kaiser Family Foundation

Just 31 percent of Kansans and 32 percent of Missourians support the House-approved bill to repeal Obamacare, according to new estimates published Wednesday in The New York Times

In fact, not one state has a majority of residents who are for the measure, with support ranging from a low of 22 percent in Massachusetts (Washington, D.C., is even lower at 16 percent) to a high of 38 percent in Oklahoma, according to the estimates.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

A typical high schooler's concerns don't usually include developing a method for early detection of Parkinson's disease. Today, we meet a 17-year-old who is using face-recognition technology to do just that.

Rep. Kevin Yoder Twitter

As support for single-payer healthcare gains momentum among Democrats in the U.S. House, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas blasts the idea as a “nightmare” scenario that must be prevented.

In an opinion piece published this week by Fox News, Yoder frames the Republican-backed American Health Care Act as a necessary alternative to the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, a plan which has now been co-sponsored by 112 of 193 House Democrats, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City. 

Two national child advocacy organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social Services, alleging that children in the state’s foster care system are over-prescribed psychotropic medications with little oversight.

“They’re prescribed off-label, to control behaviors,” said Bill Grimm, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, which filed the lawsuit on Monday. “While many other states have instituted some sort of oversight … Missouri has very little to none of those safeguards in place.”

The suit seeks class action status. State officials declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Dan Margolies / File/KCUR 89.3

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on Monday said a special session of the legislature was a necessary response to abortion measures adopted recently by “radical politicians” in St. Louis.

Greitens made the  comments after signing the Real ID bill, ensuring that Missourians can use their driver’s licenses to board planes and enter military bases and federal buildings.

As promised, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City — for the second time — to target organizations and local governments that support abortion rights.

The session begins next Monday. “I'm pro-life, and I believe that we need to defend life and promote a culture of life here in the state of Missouri,” the governor said in his announcement on Facebook.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday morning requiring abortion providers to give patients information listing their credentials, any disciplinary actions meted out against them and whether they have malpractice insurance.

The bill also requires the information to be provided at least 24 hours before a procedure and printed on white paper in black 12-point, Times New Roman font.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences

Joplin city leaders and school officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Kansas City University of Medicine and Bioscience campus on Tuesday.

Built near the site of what was the parking lot of the old Saint John’s Regional Medical Center, which was destroyed in a 2011 tornado that killed 161 people, the new medical school was described as a “phoenix rising from the ashes.”

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